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9:15 AM on 08.02.2008

PC Game Review Policies, or: How to Piss and Moan



Obviously this is a current hot topic, and it is just as obvious that some people don't get it. I figured I'd wade in with my thoughts on the matter of PC game reviews.

Firstly, it is my most adamant belief that you can only review what you get in the box. This means no patches, no mods. As far as digital distribution is concerned, with stuff like Steam and Eternity's Child, you should only be reviewing the initial release, not any subsequent revision.

Obviously this makes things difficult, because in some cases v1.0 (original release) won't always be available. In the case of Eternity's Child, Reverend Anthony and Conrad Zimmerman both reviewed the initial release, which is what people, myself included, paid money for.

The fact that the game has since been patched does not count.

The initial release that involved an actual purchase was unplayable. This is not hyperbole, this is fact: the jump button did not work more than half the time.

In a platform game.

This is not a small error. The game was UNPLAYABLE.

No gameplay = no game = no score worth a damn.



While criticisms of the art may have been a factor (it looks great in stills but animates terribly) and the actual physics in game were atrocious (jumping and movement felt like a flash game or a cheap NES mascot platformer), the core problem (as you no doubt noticed, they repeated themselves enough) was that the game was fundamentally broken.

"It has been patched!" you say. "Change your mind! And you review score!"

No.

If we start counting patches, when do we stop? Do we stop when the bugs in the initial release have been fixed? Do we stop when the bugs from the first patch have been fixed? Do we stop after the first round of mods that add extra content? Is there a grace period of, say, one year, for modders to add quality to our purchase?

No. None of the above. You can only review what everyone gets. Not everyone will download the patches and play the same mods. Imagine reviewing Oblivion if you counted patches and additional content, without even touching the mods. The game wouldn't have been reviewed for over a year!


Hold the review, Hamish! Little Johnny hasn't finished his Horse Cock mod yet...

Imagine reviewing Ninja Gaiden on X-Box even. Additional content is available to download, adding new weapons, costumes and missions. Should we go back and alter reviews accordingly, or keep the review only for the content on the game disc? Should we all go back and download all the latest mods and patches for games we long since stopped playing because they might have gotten better since?

Review policy conundrums aside, whether or not you agree with the idea of only reviewing the initial release and not counting patches or mods, there is one very simple thing to note here: By Luc's own admission, there was no QA done. They released a product without first checking to see if it worked.

That's your 1.0 right there. He has no one to blame but himself.   read


9:07 AM on 07.25.2008

Greatest Ninja Dog Ever

I was playing through Ninja Gaiden II for the first time today (that's the 360 #2, not Dark Sword of Chaos on NES) and I get to level 4 which takes place at the statue of liberty.

It was at this moment that I had a retro mind fuck as Shadow Dancer, in all it's 16-bit glory, came back to me. Specifically level 3, which takes place atop the Lime Lady of Liberty.



Was this an intentional homage by Itagaki, do you think? Or was he unintentionally paying tribute to the greatest Ninja game of all time? (On a small side note, is anyone else bummed that we won't get any extra NG2 content due to this disaster? No XBL tournaments, no remixed levels, certainly no NG2 Black...)

While I originally came here to moan about NG2, and lament the loss of the crater faced rock god of gaming ninjahood, I got sidetracked because Shadow Dancer is fucking awesome. And the dog! Man, that dog was awesome. The way he would attack on command, and turn in to a puppy when he took damage, and grow again when Hayate powered up.

An interesting observation: Joe Musashi is Hayate's father, and it was he who starred as the hero in the other Shinobi games. Both Ryu and Hayate have fathers named Joe!

Coincidence again?

I think not. Let's not forget that Hayate is also the name of Ryu's best friend in the DOA universe!



Of course, the fond memories of Shadow Dancer are driven even deeper by the realisation that NG2 just isn't as good as the original. Not only is the camera worse than I remember (also could have been fixed with the bonus content) but it dropped the ball when it came to being a fun challenge. Instead of rip-off-your-dick-painful-but-fair enemies and numbers, it's turned in to a ten ton weight that is lots-of-overpowered-enemies-with-many-cheap-shots.

Like those fucking ninja dogs.

Fuck them.

There's only one ninja dog I will ever love, and he is a white wolf looking thing.



This blog didn't start with any real point, other than I'm tired and wanted to talk about Ninja Gaiden 2 and Shadow Dancer but I want to leave you with a reminder that the dog in Shadow Dancer is awesome.

Shadow Dancer is awesome.

This thing that BatThink just posted it awesome, and I want one, because it has Shadow Dancer on it. (My copy is 500ks away. Moving out of home meant I had to leave a lot behind. My retro collection was most of that.)

I'll be back with a proper review when I've finished Ninja Gaiden 2, but at the moment It doesn't look like it's gonna be better than either the X-Box original or the NES original. Or Shadow Dancer.

Which is awesome by the way.

P.S. The dog's name is Yamato. I have been informed that it is an old name for Japan, roughly translating to "source of the sun", which makes some kind of sense since they are in the most eastern part of Asia. The more you know!

P.P.S. I know I'm late with the whole NG2 thing. But this is Australia. Have some compassion. We won't get Fallout 3 at all...   read


8:37 PM on 06.15.2008

Tecmo - Itagaki = Fail



This is getting interestinger and interestinger.

So Itagaki (aka GOD) has left Tecmo after they refused to pay his bonus. Now a good chunk of his former team are also leaving for the same reason.

As a result, Tecmo's stock price is taking a beating, since I can't think of another Tecmo game that is equal to the calibre of Ninja Gaiden, not to mention the whole “not telling the stockholders” thing in the article above, which, if I know finance, is VERY BAD.

So Itagaki is now a free spirit and, I would guess, in talks with Mircosoft? He seems to like them, they seem to like him. He could hire his 36 brothers from Team Ninja back and they could get back to work.

Meanwhile, Tecmo's price will tumble, and eventually they will get bought out, probably.

Probably by...Mircosoft.

Who will put Itagaki in charge of Ninja Gaiden and DOA again.

And all will be right with the world.

A guy can dream, can't he?

...I'm gonna miss Itagaki and his crazy ninja ways...   read


10:44 PM on 05.13.2008

GTA drinks the Guinness



This news article got me thinking.

Video games, and GTA as the current flagship video game franchise, blow other entertainment media out of the water.

As a gamer, I don't really like the GTA series. I think they're buggy pieces of sensationalist average-ness that, without hookers and swear words, would be just another sandbox style game where you do a lot of nothing to kill time just because.

I mean, if you played the same game, same engine, but replaced the gangster main character with a delivery boy who, instead of dealing drugs and working for syndicates, delivered pizzas in a large open city with lots of stuff to do in it, no one would care nearly as much.

My personal opinion on the franchise aside, the sales numbers speak for themselves, and should prove beyond any doubt to any reasonable person that video gaming is not a fad industry, but now the premiere money making entertainment medium in the world.

Consider this: Block buster game budgets (about $20 million) are still far below the budgets of major motion pictures. This season's big movies, Iron Man and Indiana Jones, both cost about $180 million each, not counting marketing budgets which, in Indy's case, is estimated to be almost the same as the production costs, at $150 million [Source: LA Times])

That means they need, in Indy's case, nearly $400 million just to break even.

Video games not only makes more money in net worth, but compared to the development costs, they require fewer sales to break even. Of course, the cost of each individual unit sold (US$60, AUS$120) is much greater than a movie ticket (US$8, AUS$12), and you only need one copy per household (as opposed to one movie ticket per person).

When it comes to numbers, it's pretty clear cut. Gaming makes more money for less, and its about time it was treated as a proper form of entertainment, for all ages, instead of having the issue degenerate in to whinging about kids playing games their parents should never have bought for them in the first place.

The whole video game issue will go away. Eventually. It's been said before, countless times, that such scapegoating happened with comic books and rock and roll music. Eventually, it went away. Not entirely, but it was not front page news when someone killed themselves listening to music, or one kid accidentally punched another kid in the face play-acting super heroes.

Believe it or not, books were considered unjust, back when the printing press was invented. People reading novels for fun was considered heinous when they could be reading the bible or working in the fields. Of course, the contrvoersy over Harry Potter leading kids to witchcraft by loud-mouthed whinging christians complain show just how far we haven't come (and it's also a good indication of who's to blame.)

So we just have to ride the whole storm in a tea-cup issue out, and GTA's sales is a pretty buoyant fact to cling to until we reach dry land.   read


9:17 AM on 04.23.2008

A visit to Activision



I went to Activision Australia's office on Monday. It was a good day, all up, aside from some trouble with my knee that kept me distracted. I've finally got my previews online, after some net downtime. Anyone else on the Eastern Coast of Australia get some nasty lag/DNS problems?

First, I was shown Guitar Hero: On Tour for the Nintendo DS, which, I must admit, looks far better than I would have thought, and then another title, which I can't yet speak about.

Suffice to say I enjoyed it, and I can't wait to tell you about it.

That game was followed by We Love Golf, in which I got to experience one of the most immediately puzzling (but in hindsight, one that made a lot of sense) control schemes yet seen for the Wii.

With the games out of the way, the journey to and from Activision was highlighted by the stabbing pains associated with knee joints when you're six and a half feet tall. Now I'm told I need to see a specialist, so he can stick a camera in my knee and then play with my cartilage.

How delightful.

P.S. Yes, I went to this thing writing part time for fun for a small Australian website, which is why I didn't get up them the way I did in my angry letter. This wasn't me the gamer, this was me the journalism student. They never replied to my letter. I doubt anyone at Activision read it.   read


4:56 AM on 01.21.2008

Classic Eidos Games on Steam?



I have just sent off an email to Eidos, asking them if they have any plans on releasing the classic Tomb Raider, Legacy of Kain and Soul Reaver games on Steam.

If id can get away with re-releasing Wolfenstein 3D and Doom and Quake, then Eidos could do the same with some classic titles in their own library. All for a budget price of course.

The email is as follows:



Hi,

Just writing to you as it's something I've been curious about for a while. I'm wondering if Eidos has any plans to release the classic (Core developed) Tomb Raider games, or the Legacy of Kain and Soul Reaver series on Steam.

I'd really like to have every game from each series available in one place without the need for fiddling around with backwards compatibility.

If you could have packages available (All classic Tomb Raider games in one pack, the Soul Reaver series and Legacy of Kain in another) I would snap them up in a second, and I know I'm not the only one.

Are there any plans to release these games over Steam and if not, why not?

Thanks for your time.
RJG

P.S. Would it help if I started an online petition? :P



I'll update if there's any reply. I'm not holding my breath though, Activision never replied to me after my nasty letter.   read


8:25 PM on 01.05.2008

Angry Letter to Activision



Dear Activision,

In light of recent events, I have decided to cease my recreational contract with you.

Effective immediately, my purchases will no longer pad your bottom line.

And I do mean pad.

In light of the hissy fit you threw over Steam pricing, well aware of the fact that it would be outrageous for Australian consumers to pay, literally, the US dollar equivalent for your titles, you instead opted to increase the price from US$50 (roughly $60 Australian, given current favourable exchange rates) to more than $85.

Bear in mind, this price increase reflects only one title on Steam. Your own. This was a decision, made by you and your people, to effectively rape my wallet for granting me the "privilege” of playing your newest title.

And from what I've heard, it's good. Single player, while short, is fun. Multiplayer, while a stat-whore fest, is also fun, despite breaking the cardinal rule of an equal playing ground for everyone.

But I won't be playing it and I won't be paying for it.

My friends, who have decidedly less scruples than myself, will be playing it.

But like me, they will not be paying for it.

I guess they figure that, since half of Australia is paying double what they should be, then half of Australia should get it for free, to create a balance.

You know, restore the equilibrium. Yin and yang. Light and Dark. Tom and Jerry.

I understand your desire for money. You are a publicly listed company, and most of your games are shit. You lose a fair bit, so the need to make it back on your better titles is noticeably overwhelming.

Price fixing and regional encoding, however, do nothing for the consumer.

Bear in mind, these consumers, like myself, are the people paying you. We pay your wages. We pay your developments costs. We pay you for the privilege of providing us with entertainment.

This is what you seem to have backwards. We pay you, so that you have the privilege of providing us with entertainment.

Being bent over a barrel and having your hand up my ass to reef out the small change I swallowed as a child is not entertainment.

Having a developer restrict access to a product I wish to pay for is not fun.

It's not just COD4 and every other game released in PAL territories that causes the pain.

Oh no.

Have you heard of Guitar Hero 3? I'm sure you have. It's one of those titles you want to exploit annually and with which your offer consumers the fair choice of paying a fistful of dollars for three songs. Making sure the songs are jumbled up so you have to buy three at once, of course, and making sure that if someone does want three songs, then all three of those songs will be in different packs, allowing for the purchase of nine songs, six of which are unwanted and paid for.

But I digress.

This issue does not really affect me, since I own the Wii version. Yeah, you think you know where I'm going with this.

But you don't.

Aside from the painfully obvious and ridiculously stupid matter of messing up the sound in a music based rhythm game, and Nintendo's inability to provide a download service that does does run straight through their own money grubbing Virtual Console service, there is one other issue Wii gamers should have taken to heart but didn't.

Allow me to scatter the bones and read the runes.

This “guitar” you have fashioned for the Wii consumer is a joke. Not only does it contain none of the technology required for it to work, but you ask that the Wii consumer get the thing to work by using one of their own Wii remotes.

You price your guitar, at least here in Australia (where I still can't buy an extra guitar without buying the game again, but since the game is broken why would I buy it until you released the fixed version, even if I was stupid enough to buy it again anyway) is $80.

$150 right there, to get one guitar controller working.

The big difference, of course, is that the Wii remote actually contains all the technology you need for the guitar to work!

It contains the wireless, the rumble, the tilt sensor. It even has that funky speaker that makes missed notes screech out of the guitar itself.

Both controllers charged at $70. One is a shell. One is full of technology.

Looking at the same game on another platform, such as PS3 or 360, one can see that you charge the same amount for a guitar controller on those platforms.

$150 RRP for your product.

And yet, the Wii version has a guitar with less technology. Where do you make up the extra money?

Is it in the quality of the version you have released?

No.

Is it in the free content you offer to Wii owners?

No.

You don't even have the option to allow Wii owners to download songs, partly because Nintendo have yet to see the light of 1995 where removable storage became the in thing.

But you're still not off the hook.

$80 on another console gets you a guitar with wireless technology, tilt sensors and rumble.

$80 for a guitar on the Wii gets you a shell that allows you to plug in a device that has wireless technology, tilt sensors and rumble.

When Activision decides to stop treating the consumer like a free meal, I will gladly buy something of yours.

Maybe.

If it's a new River Raid.

That was the best thing you and your namesake ever made. I'd like to see another one.

Please, stop being assholes. Embrace the PAL gamer as equal. When you realise that the PAL market is the largest in the world, and that this works well with the cardinal rule of business: “it's easier to take $1 from one hundred people person than $100 from one person”, when you realise this, maybe you will not need to “exploit” your games and your audience so gratuitously.

tl;dr

You're a bunch of overcharging money grubbers who don't realise that the consumer you are trying to court is not only smarter than you, but they can take what you are trying to sell for free if you try to mess with them.

Sincerely,
A PAL gamer who is sick of your bullshit (and a former paying customer)



I will post any reply received here.

Links to this blog will be posted on my other blog where I post links to all the other stuff I've written.   read





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